Title:
SPILL GUARD FOR DISHWARE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A spill guard which is attached to standard dishware at mealtime. This spill guard has a crescent shape and includes a crescent shaped support flange designed to house the rim of standard dishware, such as plates or bowls, of a variety of widths and circumferences. This spill guard is capable of preventing food from falling off the edge of said dishware. This spill guard is capable to deflecting food that is pushed upon it and then guiding the food onto the user's utensil. This spill guard can be detached from standard dishware for the purpose of cleaning and storage.



Inventors:
Wong, Michele G. (Danville, CA, US)
Akabane, Paige J. (Danville, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/972471
Publication Date:
07/16/2009
Filing Date:
01/10/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D25/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NEWAY, BLAINE GIRMA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATENTBEST (Reno, NV, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A generally crescent shaped dishware accessory comprising: a. an interior side, wherein at least a portion of the interior side has a generally concave shape; b. an exterior side; c. a top edge and a bottom edge; and d. a groove located along at least a portion of the length of the interior side.

2. The dishware accessory of claim 1, wherein the groove is located nearer the bottom edge than the top edge.

3. The dishware accessory of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the interior and exterior sides are tapered.

4. The dishware accessory of claim 1, wherein the groove is of a size and shape capable of securing a standard size plate.

5. The dishware accessory of claim 1, wherein the dishware accessory is made of a flexible material.

6. The dishware accessory of claim 5, wherein the flexible material is plastic.

7. The dishware accessory of claim 5, wherein the flexible material is rubber.

Description:

A. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a spill guard or spill barrier and to a spill guard or spill barrier that can attach to standard dishware for the dual purpose of assisting a person in loading food onto a utensil and to prevent food from spilling off of dishware.

B. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There is a significant part of the population that has a problem feeding themselves. Specifically these individuals have great difficulty loading, also referred to as scooping, food onto a utensil. In many instances, the food is pushed with a utensil and then spills off the edge of the dish. This inability to load food onto a utensil successfully without spilling can be frustrating, embarrassing and humiliating to those affected. A person who is unable to consistently load a utensil and feed himself or herself without spillage or waste may require a caregiver to assist with the daily eating process, thereby losing the feeling of independence. In some extreme cases, especially in the elderly, the inability to load or scoop food successfully can contribute to malnutrition.

A significant percentage of individuals affected are adults and elderly adults who have physical, cognitive, neurological or medical conditions that inhibit their ability to successfully scoop food onto a utensil without spilling. These conditions may include a decrease or loss of vision, loss of use to one upper extremity, decreased muscle strength, generalized weakness, decreased coordination, and bed confinement.

Other groups of individuals who are unable to successfully load food onto a utensil without spilling may include children, adolescents, and adults with compromised motor and or cognitive conditions. Specific disorders affecting all age groups may include strokes, blindness, arthritis, Parkinson's Disease, Autism, Downs Syndrome, and Multiple Sclerosis. Toddlers represent another large group whose early motor and coordination development make it difficult for them to scoop food onto a utensil without spilling. Perfectly healthy children, adolescents, and adults may also spill simply because they are messy eaters.

Thus, a particular need exists for those requiring a functional and convenient device to help a segment of the population to successfully load food onto a utensil, eliminate spillage, and maintain independence. This invention provides toddlers, children, adults and the elderly with an invention that solves these unmet needs.

C. PRIOR ART

The problem of spilling or loading food onto a utensil is not new, and various approaches have been proposed in the past. For example several inventions have been designed solely to address the problem of spilling food from a dish. Several disclose the use of securing dishware directly onto a solid surface with the use of hardware and/or clamps. See U.S. Pat. No. 2,850,079 to Prushnok et al, U.S. Pat. No. 4,908,066 to Therese A. Taylor, George Spector, U.S. Pat. No. 2,430,783 to George Rodinger, U.S. Pat. No. 5,586,800 to Kelvin N. Triplett and U.S. Pat. No. 2,550,989 to French et al. Although these examples of prior art prevent a dish from tipping and therefore spilling food content, they do not address the problem of loading food onto a utensil or spilling due to a utensil pushing food over the edge of a dish. These examples of prior art also must be used in conjunction with specific dishware sizes, and are not interchangeable with standard dishware found in retail stores.

The following examples propose the use of unsecured dishware to prevent spilling. U.S. Pat. No. 6,581,210 to John Kaloustian (2003) proposes a bib and dish combination that directs food spilled during hand to mouth movement to be redirected back to a dish. U.S. Pat. No. 6,032,824 to Mark E. Barrow (2000) and U.S. Pat. No. 5,366,103 to Alexia Abernathy, Keith D. Patterson (1994) both describe a bowl used to prevent liquid from spilling when the said bowl is bumped or displaced. U.S. Pat. No. 6,561,375 to Giselle F. Nagy (2003) proposes a low profile dish using a bottom adhesive to prevent tipping and spillage. Again none of these references specifically address the problem of loading food onto a utensil or spilling due to a utensil pushing food over the edge of a dish. In all of these examples the dishware must be used to prevent spilling. These references do not use a device that is attachable to or used in conjunction with standard dishware found in retail stores.

Several patented devices have been proposed to solely address the problem of loading food onto a utensil. U.S. Pat. No. 4,162,868 to Patrick Stapleton, Hubbard P. Browne, Dallas D. Weatherholt, U.S. Pat. No. 4,277,213 to William H. Morewood, U.S. Pat. No. 4,398,857 to Frank D. Layman, Sr., and U.S. Pat. No. 6,592,315 to William Joseph Osborne, Jr. (2003) all propose complicated feeding apparatus for invalids involving devices to load food onto a utensil. These examples are targeted towards invalids who have no use of both upper extremities. U.S. Pat. No. 5,592,744 to Alex H. Weinstein describes a self-leveling utensil to assist a toddler or disabled person to hold said utensil but it does not address assisting in loading food.

ADVANTAGES OF EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION

From the description below, a number of advantages of this embodiment of the invention become evident:

(a) The crescent shape of the preferred embodiment compliments the annular shape of standard dishware.

(b) The unique concave design of the crescent support wall deflects and guides food onto a utensil.

(c) The groove provides a secure housing cavity that accommodates a variety of standard dishware in a range of thicknesses and diameters.

(d) The tapered arms provide an unobstructed area for the user to view his or her food as well as allow ample room for the users hand and utensil.

(e) The invention can be attached to a variety of standard dishware.

(f) The invention is easily detachable for cleansing or storage.

(g) The invention is dishwasher safe at high temperatures and is microwave safe as well.

(h) The invention is light and easily portable.

(i) The invention is robust, and holds up under stretching and vigorous manipulation.

Accordingly, the invention described herein can be of great benefit to those with feeding impairments. The proposed invention is versatile, and can accommodate a variety of standard dishware whether the user is at home, in a restaurant, or residing in an institution. The proposed invention will preferably be made of durable material to withstand multiple daily uses as well as tolerate chemicals and hot water temperatures necessary to ensure proper sanitation. Most important, this invention will provide a functional tool to prevent food from spilling, and assist the user in successfully scooping food independently during meals.

Although the description below contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the embodiments described herein. For example, the spill guard can have other shapes, such as annular, oblong, etc.; the invention can be made in different sizes to accommodate a wider range of plate circumferences; can be made of a variety of materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, synthetic plastic combinations, metal compositions, etc. The support flange may take a variety of shapes, such as perpendicular, textured, untapered, etc. The securing mechanism may be designed with an angular groove having different dimensions or shapes, a groove with textures or striations, securing mechanism comprised of clips or clamps, or comprise more than one interlocking parts which come together to engage the dish, etc.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto.

In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further, the purpose of the abstract below is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It has been recognized that it would be advantageous to develop a device that can attach to a variety of standard dishware for the dual purpose of providing a spill guard or spill barrier that prevents food from falling and also assists a person in loading food onto a utensil.

In accordance with one embodiment, the subject invention provides a novel and versatile device that can attach to the perimeter of a variety of standard dishes and effectively act as a spill guard or spill barrier to prevent solid and semi-solid food from falling.

Accordingly, it is an object of the subject invention in accordance with one embodiment to act as a spill guard or spill barrier to deflect solid and semi-solid food that is pushed against said invention and then guide the food onto a utensil.

It is an object of the subject invention in accordance with one embodiment to provide a spill guard or spill barrier that can attach onto a variety of standard eating dishware, meaning plate or bowl.

It is another object of the subject invention in accordance with one embodiment to provide a guard or barrier that can be detached from standard eating dishware, meaning plate or bowl, for cleaning and storage purposes.

It is another object of the subject invention in accordance with one embodiment to comprise an improved fastening means for attaching the subject invention onto a range of dishware having varying degrees of thickness and circumferences.

Yet another object of the subject invention in accordance with one embodiment is the device is aesthetically pleasing in design, functionally contoured, and rugged in construction.

It is another object of the invention in accordance with one embodiment to provide a device susceptible to mass production, as by an injection molding process from a cost effective, synthetic plastic material.

It is another object of the invention in accordance with one embodiment to provide a material that is microwave safe.

It is another object of the invention in accordance with one embodiment to use a material that tolerates and complies with hot water temperatures used in sinks and dishwashers in the home, restaurant and institutionalized settings.

Further scope of applicability of the present invention will become apparent from the detailed description given hereinafter. However, it should be understood that the detailed description and specific examples, while indicating preferred embodiments of the invention, are given by way of illustration only, since various changes and modifications within the spirit and scope of the invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from this detailed description.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Preferred Embodiment

Reference will now be made to the exemplary embodiments illustrated in the drawings, and specific language will be used herein to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended. Alterations and further modifications of the inventive features illustrated herein, and additional applications of the principles of the inventions as illustrated herein, which would occur to one skilled in the relevant art and having possession of this disclosure, are to be considered within the scope of the invention.

The present invention, which is to be described in detail using the accompanying drawings, refers to a spill guard that can be attached to a variety of standard dishware, such as plates and bowls. This spill guard in discussion is used to prevent food from falling off the edge of dishware during eating. Furthermore, food that is pushed against the spill guard with a utensil, such as a fork or spoon, can be deflected back onto the utensil to assist in loading or scooping food. The spill guard in the present invention is intended to be constructed of a synthetic plastic material, polypropylene. However, the food guard of this invention could also be constructed of any other synthetic plastic material, a variety of metal compositions, or wood.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the invention attached to a dinner plate.

FIG. 2

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 3

FIG. 3 is a front view of the invention.

FIG. 4

FIG. 4 is a top view of the invention.

FIG. 5

FIG. 5 is a side view of the invention.

FIG. 6

FIG. 6 is a rear view of the invention.

FIG. 7

FIG. 7 is a bottom view of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Referring particularly to the perspective views in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 of the drawings, there is shown a spill guard in the form of 18. The spill guard 18 has a top edge 10 located at the upper surface of the spill guard. This top edge 10 is crescent shaped and follows parallel above the circular perimeter of any standard dishware used in conjunction with the spill guard 18. It is anticipated that the user will find the most utility using dishware in the form of any standard plate having a diameter of 7″-12″. However, this invention can be made in a variety of different sizes to include use in larger or smaller size dishware as well. The top edge 10 is integrally connected to a support wall 20. The support wall 20 is crescent shaped and follows the circular perimeter of attached dishware 32. The central portion of the support wall 20 is referred to as the midsection 28. The remaining distal ends of the support wall are made up of oppositely directed sections referred to as the left arm 22 and right arm 30. The support wall in its entirety 20 will act as a barrier to prevent food from falling off the edge of said dish. The interior side 14 of the support wall 20 is concave in design. The concave shape will deflect food pushed against said support wall 20 back onto a utensil. This feature assists the user in guiding food onto any utensil, such as a fork or spoon. The support wall 20 is integrally connected to a groove 24. The groove 24 comprises an indentation along the entire length of the interior side 14 of the invention. However, the invention could also work with a groove 24 along only a portion of the interior wall 14. The groove 24 will provide the housing cavity that will secure this invention to the rim of standard dishware 32. The groove 24 is an indentation to accommodate dishware rims of various sizes. Connected below the groove 24 is a bottom edge 12. The bottom edge 12 is crescent shaped and will follow below the circular rim of any standard dishware used in conjunction with the spill guard 18. The undersurface of the bottom edge 12 will be flat and serve as a base to support the spill guard on a flat surface in the upright position when spill guard is not engaged with dishware.

FIG. 2 shows an open space 26 that lies between the left am 22 and right arm 30. The open space 26 provides an entrance and exit point for engaging and detaching spill guard from dishware. FIG. 1 shows the spill guard 18 attached to a plate 32, represented in dashed lines and is not claimed as part of the design. The dishware 32 enters through open space 26 and the rim of said dishware 32 secures inside groove 24. The spill guard 18 is preferably constructed from relatively yieldable plastic material allowing for slight flexibility of the left arm 22 and right arm 30 to increase the open space 26 when the dishware 32 enters. This relatively yieldable plastic material will possess sufficient memory properties to passively return left arm 22 and right arm 30 to original position and provide secure tension and fit of dishware within groove 24. After mealtime, the spill guard can be detached for cleaning and storage. The left arm 22 and right arm 30 can be slightly flexed apart to increase the open space 26 and remove dishware. The left arm 22 and right arm 30, being made of relatively yieldable plastic material with sufficient memory properties, will passively return to original position.

Referring particularly to FIG. 3, FIG. 4, FIG. 5, and FIG. 6 of the drawings, each further illustrate the concave and tapered design of the support wall 20. These two features are important to the function of the spill guard. FIG. 3 of the drawings shows a front view of the spill guard 18. The support wall 20 is taller in the mid section 28 and tapers as it extends distally towards both the left arm 22 and right arm 30. The tapered design provides the user with an unobstructed visual field to locate food on the dishware. The tapered design maintains an unobstructed area for the user's utensil and hand during self-feeding. FIG. 3 shows the groove 24 following the interior length of the invention from the end of the left arm 22 to the end of the right arm 30 in order to ensure secure attachment to dishware.

FIG. 4 of the drawings shows a top plan view of the spill guard 18 for dishware. The support wall 20 is wider at the midsection 28 due to a greater degree of concavity in this area. The greater degree of concavity improves the ability to deflect food back onto a utensil. The midsection 28 is where the user receives the best leverage and assistance in guiding food onto the utensil. The width of the support wall 20 decreases distally at the left arm 22 and right arm 30 as the degree of concavity decreases. The left arm 22 and right arm 30 function to prevent spillage, and can assist in loading food onto the utensil, however the primary location for this function is the midsection.

FIG. 5 and FIG. 6 both further illustrate the concave and tapered features of the support wall 20. FIG. 5 is a side view of the spill guard 18 for dishware. The exterior side of the support wall 20 is shown and is noticeably concave. The height of the support wall 20 decreases as it tapers towards the left arm 22 and right arm 30. FIG. 6 is rear view of the spill guard 18 for dishware. The exterior side of the midsection 28 lies central in this figure. The support wall 20 is tallest in the midsection and tapers as it extends in both directions towards the left arm 22 and right arm 30.

FIG. 7 is a bottom view of the spill guard 18 for dishware. The bottom edge 12 is crescent shaped and lies below the circular rim of any standard dishware used in conjunction with the spill guard 18. The undersurface of the bottom edge 12 is flat and will serve as a base to support the spill guard on a fat surface in the upright position when spill guard is not engaged with dishware. As discussed prior, the midsection 28 of the support wall has a greater degree of concavity. For this reason a portion of the top edge 10 is visible from the bottom plan view point.